Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Simo Hayha: A Finnish Sniper

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During World War II, Germany was not the only country on an invasive path. The Soviet Red Army was pushing west. On November 30, 1939, the Red Army invaded Finland. What ensued became known as the Winter War. The Red Army met with some serious opposition, which they likely did not expect. It is estimated that Finnish soldiers killed more than 100,000 Soviet soldiers. This number was exponentially higher than Finnish losses during the Winter War. One of the Finnish soldiers responsible for the amazing defense Finland put up was a small (little more than 5' tall) man by the name of Simo Hayha.

Simo Hayha was born in 1905 or 1906 in Rautajarvi, Finland. His was a simple life of farming and hunting with his family. He joined the Finnish Army in 1925 and completed his mandatory year in the service. By the time the year was over, Hayha was a corporal. When the Red Army invaded in 1939, Hayha was called up to serve with the 6th Company of JR34.  He served on the Kollaa River during what became known as the "miracle of Kollaa." The Finnish Army was grossly outnumbered and yet the area was held for the duration of the conflict.

During the winter of 1939-1940, Simo Hayha served primarily as a sniper. He has said that his weapon of choice was a Mosin-Nagant Model 28. However, he has been photographed with a Mosin-Nagant Model 28/30. Either way, his sniper rifle was iron-sighted. This means that he did not use a scope, but essentially a couple of prongs of metal lined up on the top of the barrel. With this, he reportedly killed many Soviet soldiers, possibly hundreds, at a distance of more than 400 yards.

Another weapon that Simo Hayha was talented with was a Suomik 31 SMG (sub-machine gun). He is credited with killing roughly 200 men with this weapon. Nonetheless, Simo was a much more accomplished sniper. His skill and technique are still amazing us 70 years later.

Simo Hayha had hunting Soviets in Finland down to a science. He knew it was cold and that the bright sun will glint off glass, so he opted out of using a scope. The cold could have broken or fogged up the glass in his scope and the glint would have given away his position. In fact, this is how he spotted many of his targets. He would also pack his mouth with snow to keep his hot breath from giving him away in the freezing cold Finland winter. Simo Hayha was working in temperatures that were consistently below zero, after all. Another technique Simo had was to shoot from a sitting position. This is odd for a sniper, but he says it helped because he was so small.

Simo Hayha was so good at his job that he became known as the "White Death." His white camouflage (suitable for snowy battlefields) and insane kill count led to this arguably intimidating moniker. What kill count can be considered insane, you ask? Well, Simo Hayha is credited with killing at least 705 Soviet soldiers with his sniper rifle (remember, he killed roughly 200 with his SMG). This makes him the most successful sniper in history. Moreover, he was only fighting for close to 100 days. That means he killed an average of seven men per day with his sniper rifle alone.

The killing streak ended for Simo Hayha on March 6, 1940, when a Red Army sniper shot him in the face with an exploding bullet. Teams of snipers had been sent to kill Hayha before then and the Red Army had even resorted to using artillery against him. They had not so much as injured him. However, the exploding bullet that hit him in March tore off part of his face. He was carried away by his fellow soldiers, but not before killing the man who shot him, according to Hayha. He then drifted into a coma for a week. The day he woke up, March 13, 1940, was the day the Winter War came to an end.

Simo Hayha spent his later years breeding dogs and hunting moose. He died on April 1, 2002. He was 96-years-old.


Tuco, Simo Hayha, retrieved 8/4/10

Monday, September 12, 2016

Josiah Quincy: Lawyer, Politician and Abolitionist

Josiah Quincy
Josiah Quincy was a lawyer, politician and abolitionist. As a lawyer, he rarely practiced. As a politician, he was largely disregarded, except for his time as "The Great Mayor" of Boston. As an abolitionist, he wrote papers on the subject and supported his abolitionist son Edmund. He is most famous in his hometown of Boston where his policies changed the face of the burgeoning city. Even today, nearly 200 years after his death, his contributions are a part of Boston.

Josiah Quincy (not to be confused with the many other Josiah Quincys in his family) was born in Boston, Massachusetts on February 4, 1772. He was the son of Josiah Quincy Jr. and Abigail Quincy nee Phillips. Both of his parents came from wealthy and influential families. The Quincy family was full of influential politicians, teachers and military (militia) men. His father was a well-known patriot who aided John Adams in the defense of the British soldiers involved in the "Boston Massacre."

When he was in his early thirties, Josiah Quincy Jr. died of tuberculosis. His son was just a toddler at the time, but he was left in the capable hands of Abigail and his grandfather--Josiah Quincy. He began attending the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts when he was six-years-old. Even there, he was under the influence of his family. His uncle, Reverend Samuel Phillips, was his teacher. From there, he went on to study at Harvard University like most great men in Boston at the time. He graduated from Harvard in 1793, but that was not the last he would see of the revered school.

After graduation, Josiah Quincy began his apprenticeship in law. He became a lawyer, but decided to spend his life in politics. Two years after his graduation from Harvard, Josiah Quincy was elected to the Boston Town Committee. (He was a Federalist.) He remained in that position for five years before running for Congress. He was not successful his first time around. However, he was elected in 1804 and he left for Washington, D.C.

While Josiah Quincy was a member of the Boston Town Committee, he married Eliza Susan Morton. The couple would go on to have seven children together, notably Edmund Quincy and Josiah Quincy Jr. (Yes, another one.) Edmund would go on to become a famous abolitionist periodical editor. Josiah Quincy Jr. would follow in his father's footsteps and become Mayor of Boston.

Things did not turn out well for Josiah Quincy in Washington. His ideas were becoming passé and his time in Congress was not noteworthy, except for his departure. In 1813, Josiah Quincy disagreed with the United States' latest war with England, so he returned home to Boston, where he was elected to the Massachusetts State Senate. He spent 12 years in that position. He was also a delegate to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention in 1820 and a Massachusetts House of Representatives Judge in 1821. In 1823, Josiah Quincy was elected Mayor of Boston.

Josiah Quincy made Boston a cleaner, safer place to live. He focused on juvenile delinquent reform. He brought municipal water and sewage to the city. He organized the fire department and more. Most notably, he cleaned up the area where Quincy Market is today and established the market, which still stands facing Faneuil Hall. In a modern city, it is a rather awkward position for the building, but it makes for great historical atmosphere and street performer fun. Mr. Quincy probably never imagined Quincy Market as it is today, but he would surely be pleased to see how beloved it is by the city's residents.

Josiah Quincy served as Mayor of Boston for five years. On June 15, 1829, he became President of Harvard University. Despite his best efforts, his time there was marked with unrest in the student body. There were violent protests and the students openly disliked Josiah. Quincy did his best to punish the students responsible and put his efforts toward making the school better. He did make some great changes to the school, but he never did win over the students. He retired from his post on August 27, 1848.

In Josiah Quincy's twilight years, he wrote a great deal about the history of some famous Boston institutions. He also wrote about his son Edmund's passion, abolitionism. He died on July 1, 1864 and was interred at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Josiah Quincy, retrieved 10/27/10, harvardaquarelibrary.org/HVDpresidents/quincy.php

Josiah Quincy, retrieved 10/27/10, uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/josiahquincy.html